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How HomeAway Owners Can Save Over $500 A Year Using These 6 Energy Saving Smart Devices

This is the second installment in a series written to help HomeAway owners use home automation to get the most out of their rental properties. In the previous post we discussed 8 smart devices HomeAway owners can use to monitor their property and improve the customer experience. Today we’re going to discuss how to save additional costs by making your home more energy efficient. The great thing about home automation, is that some of these smart devices overlap, so they can serve multiple purposes.

The sharing economy has provided an exciting outlet for investors and travelers eager to earn additional income from their homes, second homes, and vacation properties. Thanks to services like HomeAway (a fellow Austin-based company), anyone can turn their property into a short-term rental for travelers and vacationers.

While owning short-term rentals can be profitable, it also comes with an element of risk. Additional costs, wear-and-tear, and the simple results of having strangers in your home mean that expenses can add up quickly. We previously discussed smart devices that can keep your HomeAway rental secure, and today we’re going to discuss how to save additional costs by making your home more energy efficient.

Why is energy efficiency important in a short-term rental? Because as the owner, you pay the electric bill, and any savings on expenses go straight to the bottom line.

In addition to all of the obvious reasons to maintain an energy efficient home, a large one for short-term rental owners is that they are the ones who ultimately pay the electric bill. When you own long-term rentals, the renter pays this cost. Meanwhile, when you live in your home, you are able to pay close attention to which devices and appliances remain on.

With a short-term rental it’s not uncommon for electric bills to end up hundreds of dollars more than they should because the a/c was left on, windows were left open, lights were never turned off, and unused appliances were left on for no reason.

By integrating a few smart solutions into your home, and tying them all together with an interoperable home automation controller, such as the WigWag Relay, you can monitor the use of all the home’s devices that use electricity – and turn them off entirely when the property is empty. Not only can this save you on your energy bill, but it can also improve the lifespan of the electronics and appliances throughout your home.

Smart Devices that Make Your Rental More Energy Efficient

Are you ready to improve the overall energy efficiency of your rental property? If so, then take a look at these simple devices that can add up to thousands of dollars in energy savings within a few years.

Add a smart thermostat to your short-term rental

Typical Annual Savings: $145

Nest Learning Thermostat - Automatically Save Energy When You're Away. Ecobee Smart Thermostat - Deliver the right temperature to any room.

As heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) are often the most expensive electric cost in any home, this is certainly where you want to start when making your home smart. According to research gathered from real customers in over 41 states, by smart thermostat maker Nest, it can save an average of $131 to $145 a year.

Three of the most popular smart thermostats on the market today are Honeywell, Nest, and Ecobee. Each one of these devices allows you to activate and adjust the thermostat from your smartphone (or schedule times when it operates), allowing you to keep it off when the home is unoccupied and then turning on right before guests arrive.

Turn off your water heater and other appliances when not in use

Typical Annual Savings: $55 to $105

If your rental property is going to be inactive for a week, there’s no sense in keeping the hot water heater on – doing so doesn’t benefit anyone (or the environment). That’s where adding a smart high current switch like this one from Insteon makes a lot of sense. With a 220/240V smart switch between the hot water heater and its power source, you can make any hot water heater smart. Then create rules to turn the hot water heater off at odd hours and when the property is sitting empty. This will also allow you to turn it off or on from anywhere, and keep track the electric usage when it is running.

So, how much will this save? According to this formula from Energy.gov for electric water heaters:

365 days/year x 12.03 kWh/day ÷ EF x Fuel Cost ($/kWh) = annual cost of operation

Example of EnergyGuide Savings Estimated Yearly Cost.

Using these variables: Water heater with an EF of 2.0, electricity cost of $0.1266/kWh, assumes an incoming water temperature of 58°F, hot water temperature of 135°F and total hot water production of 64.3 gallons per day (the average usage for a household size of three people).

We calculated the cost to run an average water heater at $277.94 per year (365 X 12.03 ÷ 2.0 X $0.1266 = $277.94). This is a conservative estimate, this number depends on the size of the water heater and its efficiency rating. All hot water heaters have a yellow energy guide sticker clearly displaying the estimated yearly operating cost. In this picture below this 71 gallon hot water heater costs an estimate of $525 per year to operate.

By setting up rules to turn the hot water heater off an average of 5 hours per day (Roughly 20%), would save $55.59 ($277.94 x 0.2) per year . If you have a larger than average hot water heater, such as the 71 gallon model above, your savings would be close to $105 per year..

The Insteon 220V / 240V 30 AMP Load Controller Normally Open Relay (Dual-Band) lets you efficiently control the use of heavy duty appliances and take a step towards saving energy and cutting down on utility costs.

Taking control of this high-cost item alone, can save your home hundreds of dollars a year without compromising the quality of your renters’ experience.

Exchange incandescent bulbs for LEDs – and make them smart

Typical Annual Savings: $334.40

Although a single lightbulb doesn’t burn through a fortune, a house full of lights can quickly add up. Particularly in hot climates, using incandescent bulbs can become costly – where the additional heat that they produce must be compensated for by additional a/c use.

Both for internal and external home usage, smart LED light bulbs like those from WigWag, Cree or GE, and other brands can reduce the energy expenditure of your lights more than by half in many cases.

We calculated the savings to be $334.40 per year with this energy savings calculator. We used these variables: 40 bulbs (the US home average), 5 hours per day, 5 days per week (Based on average occupancy), 9 Watts (Wattage of Filament Smart LED Bulbs) for the calculation.

WigWag Home Automation Kit Relay and Compatible Bulbs.

Above: The WigWag Home Automation Kit with Relay and Filament Bulbs

And the savings don’t stop with the reduced electric usage when the lights are on. Because the lights can be integrated with WigWag Relay, it’s possible to monitor and control these lights at anytime. Have your guests just checked out? Quickly confirm that all of the lights are off with the mobile app or create rules that use sensor data to turn them off automatically!

Integrate smart outlets, switches and dimmers

Smart outlets, switches and dimmers including Aeon Labs, WeMo, Belkin, and Insteon

Just because something is turned off doesn’t mean that it isn’t using electricity. TVs, radios, microwaves, and many other items in your home continue to burn through power – even when turned off.

By integrating a few smart switches and outlets those from Aeon Labs or Wemo and smart dimmer switches such as this in-wall dimmer switch or this plug-in dimmer from Insteon, you can further reduce your electricity expenses. Then you can control and automate when devices are turned on, and monitor how much power they receive.

Install closure sensors on your Doors and Windows

Connect all of your smart home devices with the WigWag Relay.

If a guest leaves with the windows or a door wide open, that can quickly up your costs through higher HVAC use – or worse if a rainstorm comes through and water gets into your home.

By using the closure sensors on your windows and doors, such as these from GoControl, you can monitor when windows and doors are left open before your electric bill goes through the roof. You could even setup a Rule, to turn off the air conditioner automatically, after a certain amount of time.

It’s hard to calculate what this would save per year, but it certainly would have an impact if guests are careless leaving doors and windows open while the HVAC is running. We thought $50 a year was a fair estimate, not to mention the peace of mind gained.

By using the WigWag Relay smart feed, you can see exactly when renters enter and exit your home – and then schedule actions (such as the a/c turning off or the lights coming on) in response to the renters activities. This helps maximize the electric efficiency and savings of your home.

WigWag Smart Home Mobile App displays an example of your

The above screenshot of the WigWag Smart Home Mobile App displays an example of your "live" feed that you will be able to access at any time, letting you know of any activity that is going on within your home.

Improve your rental property returns with smart devices

It’s amazing how a few simple changes can improve your bottom line. Whether you own one rental property, or dozens, consider implementing a few or all of the smart devices above to save money, and add additional security, to your rental property.

Have you had any success lowering the operational cost of your HomeAway? We'd love to hear about your experiences in the comment section below!

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